Category: Writing & Editing

Stephen King’s Top 5 Writing Tips

Stephen-KingStephen King recently turned 68. He has been writing nail-biting cliff-hangers and kept readers on the edge of their seats for years. He is an absolute master when it comes to dramatic suspense and absolutely brilliant at shaping the outline of a plot. He knows exactly where to put the highs and lows, the reveals and the secrets not to mention the neatly interwoven subplots. Basically, he can reduce his reader to a breathless wreck. Long before Netflix had viewers craving their next hit of a certain boxset drama, Stephen King was there doing the same thing – leaving his readers desperate to read “just one more chapter”.

Stephen King 5 Facts

  • His books have sold more than 350 million copies.
  • Not only is Stephen King a bestselling author, his films have been adapted to movies, TV series and comic books.
  • He has won many top industry awards, including World Fantasy Awards and British Fantasy Awards
  • Stephen King has written 54 novels and 6 non-fiction books
  • He has written a book to help other writers develop their craft called On Writing

Stephen King’s Writing Tips

Stephen King has written a whole book on how to be a better writer, but here I’ve chosen 5 of my favourite quotes from him that can help all writers in all genres at all stages of their career. Even if you are writing literary fiction, and you don’t think you can learn anything from a commercial thriller writer, trust me, you can.

1, You need a place to write

How many of you struggle to find enough time in a quiet enough place to write? Routine is your friend here. Your writing place doesn’t even have to be in your own home, it could be a local library of cafe. Wherever it is, you need to make sure that your time there is protected. This means that you will not just quickly check your emails, catch up with the latest political scandal or start chatting to friends on Facebook. When you are in this place you are there with one purpose: to write. That purpose is sacred and you need to do what you can to protect it. This will also help you to focus your mind, be more productive and get more written.

 2, Know your characters inside out, but be selective

When you are coming up with the idea for a character, you need to know everything about them – from the small things like how they take their coffee to the big things like what they are carrying with them from childhood. We often work with writers who create “bibles” for each character to make sure they are consistent in what they write. But, and here’s the big but – just because you know every last thing about them you don’t need to cram it into your writing. Be selective, think about what is important to the story and what can be left lurking in the background.

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3, Keep reading; keep learning

This one was a favourite with my English teachers at school. As always, they were right – you cannot hope to be a good writer until you have become a good reader. Of course you need to check out your competition and read the biggest authors in your genre or Amazon category, but you should also read more widely. Read the books that are winning literary prizes to see why they won, have a look at the Kindle top 100 chart and select something you would not normally read. There is always lots to learn from other writers.

4, Don’t waffle

You love words; that’s why you are a writer. We understand this, we love words too. However, successful writers are those who can be selective and pare down their words so that they can create maximum impact with as few words as possible. It can be tempting to over-write certain scenes, to fill them with too much description, because you want the reader to see it as clearly in their minds as you do. Generally, if you are honest with yourself, you will know when you are doing this. If you suspect you are beginning to waffle, ask a trusted friend (or fellow writer) to read your work and give you some brutally honest feedback.

5, Feedback will make you a better writer

Any member of a writing group will tell you that getting open and honest advice from fellow writers can be a real shortcut to improving your craft. Even if you are not a member of a writing group, you can and should be actively seeking feedback from friends and family. Now, for this feedback to be valuable you need to make sure you don’t get any of the “Very nice dear” type comments. We have created a reader feedback questionnaire here, which helps readers focus their mind on specific questions and asks them to rank certain elements. This can be very helpful e.g. if all your questionnaires come back showing that the ending is ranked weaker than the beginning and the middle then you know where you need to go to work. The people around you are a great untapped resource, use them to help you become a better writer. When you have taken the feedback on board and had a go at strengthening the weaker parts of your story, you are ready to start working with a professional editor who will be able to use their experience and sharp eye to make your work the best it can be. Find out more about our editorial services here.

Have Stephen King’s words struck a chord with you? Perhaps your favourite Stephen King quotes are different from ours? Please share the Stephen King quotes that have helped you the most in the comments box below.

Free writers' resource pack

Want some quick and easy tools to improve your writing?

The pack contains:

  • 25+ inspirational writing prompts 
  • A list of commonly misused words
  • A beta reader feedback questionnaire

The Best Writing Courses to Make You Finish Your Novel

Writing Courses

Writing courses are one of the most coveted routes into a successful writing career. Whether it’s plot, pacing, or grammar, every writer can benefit from a course that helps them refine their talent and produce their very best work. With the help of expert tutors – sometimes accomplished teachers, and often published novelists themselves – budding writers can use writing courses to perfect their pacing, sharpen their dialogue or finally get that novel finished. More than anything, writing courses give you structure, and deadlines, and can be the best possible incentive to finishing a tricky piece of work. If you think that a writing course is exactly what you need to push you towards the finish line, we’ve compiled some of the very best below.

The Best Writing Courses to Make You Finish Your Novel

Curtis Brown Creative Writing CoursesCurtis Brown Creative

The only creative writing school run by a leading literary agency, Curtis Brown Creative was launched in 2011 by Anna Davies, who aspired to ‘find talented writers, help them to get the best out of their writing, and educate them in the ways of today’s publishing industry’. The intensive six-month novel writing course is run by experienced novelists Louise Wener, Anna Davies and Susan Fletcher, who teach students in dedicated writing workshops as well an in one-to-one tuition sessions. The skills of the tutors clearly transfer well to their students; Curtis Brown Creative has produced 16 major publishing deals for their students, and graduates include Jessie Burton, author of 2014’s huge bestseller The Miniaturist. Their next Course ‘Start to write your novel’ runs from 17th May 2017 to 27th June 2017, and costs £200. Their next six-month online novel writing course runs from 11th September 2017 to 26th February 2018, and costs £2,600.

Free writers' resource pack

Want some quick and easy tools to improve your writing?

The pack contains:

  • 25+ inspirational writing prompts 
  • A list of commonly misused words
  • A beta reader feedback questionnaire

Unthank SchoolUnthank School Writing Courses

Based in Norwich and offering online courses as well, the Unthank School was founded in 2011 and is taught entirely by published authors, many of whom have also worked in film and television. As a part of Unthank Books, a publisher of literary fiction, the Unthank School ‘aims to bring new voices to the fore’; students are often published in Unthank’s Unthology, an anthology of exciting new writing published twice a year. Their next 25-week Writing The Novel course begins on 20th April 2017 and costs £800.

Faber Academy

Faber Academy Writing CoursesAs one of the UK’s most respected publishers, Faber & Faber launched The Faber Academy in 2008, aiming to ‘offer the best possible route towards the potential masterpiece in everyone’. Boasting a host of published authors as their tutors, such as Rowan Coleman, Anthony McGowan and Joanna Briscoe, the Faber Academy offers a wide range of courses from Getting Started: Beginner’s Fiction to Memoir and Life Writing. Courses feature one-to-one tutoring and lively peer review workshops as students are supported in their writing ventures in courses as long as six months or as short (and intensive!) as five days. The Writing A Novel course begins on 28th September 2017, and ends on 15th March 2018. The course costs £4,000.

Have you ever taken a writing course? Did it improve your writing? Let us know in the comments below. If you have managed to finished your manuscript – congratulations! The next thing to do is to put it away for a week or too and come back to it with fresh eyes and a red pen. After that, it’s time to bring the experts in. Find out more about our editorial services here.

Top 10 Writing Retreats (2017 update)

Writing retreats offer you a chance to escape your stresses and strains and focus solely on your writing. If squeezing writing into your hectic routine has become a burden, then nothing can recharge you better than a week at a peaceful, quiet writing retreat in idyllic, natural surroundings. Just a short break from the crowds and traffic, kids, husbands or wives, annoying neighbours, deadlines or your own demons following you, is guaranteed to spark your creativity, and make your love of writing come rushing back. We’ve found some of the most tranquil writing retreats to reignite your inspiration. We have done a lot of research and spoken to lots of writers to finally come to our ultimate list of the best writing retreats to treat yourself to this year.

1. Moniack Mhor
Kiltarlity, Scotland

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Amidst some of the most beautiful natural terrain in Scotland, Moniack Mhor has been offering peaceful writing retreats since 1993, and has since become Scotland’s premier creative writing centre. Moniack Mhor offers accommodation in a main house and a cottage, and offers tutorials hosted within an eco-friendly Straw Bale Studio, which utilises solar and wind energy, and is entirely environmentally sustainable. In their simple but cosy guest houses, writers can not only receive tutorials from published authors, editors and agents, but revel in the idyllic landscape of the Scottish Highlands.

Prices

Prices start at £490 for a week long tutored retreat, and £200 for a short untutored retreat. See their website for more details.

2. La Muse Inn
Aude, South of France

BEST FOR: A LONG BREAK


La Muse artists’ and writers’ retreat in France offers you time and space to experience inspiration, transformation and well-being. The real selling points are the gorgeous location in the lush hillside of Carcassonne, and the breath-taking views that will inspire and relax you. If stunning views don’t really interest you, there is always the absolute certainty that you will meet an interesting bunch of writers and creatives. La Muse have been running retreats for 15 years now, and they haven’t thought about stopping!

Prices

Prices can vary from £275 (€325) to £1595 (€1895) depending on room, date and length of stay.

TOP TIPS: They offer reductions for off season bookings, and for extended stays. This even applies to July and August, if booked 6 months in advance.

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If you are lucky enough to have the time, it’s possible to stay for several months, either on

3. Literary Adventures with The Literary Consultancy
Andalucía, Spain

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If you need to escape a little further afield, try The Literary Consultancy’s annual Literary Adventures, taking place this year in the incomparable Alpujarras Mountains in Andalucía, Spain. If you can tear yourself away from the stunning views of the mountain ranges surrounding Casa Ana (the Literary Adventure’s beautiful guest house), you will find that the woods nearby offer a host of enchanting sights. A short walk takes you to a beautifully tranquil, natural water spring, close to a restored ancient threshing circle. The stunning landscape will certainly provide ample inspiration for writers, along with the gorgeous weather and experience of a Spanish holiday.

Prices

Prices start at £795. See their website for more details.

Free writers' resource pack

Want some quick and easy tools to improve your writing?

The pack contains:

  • 25+ inspirational writing prompts 
  • A list of commonly misused words
  • A beta reader feedback questionnaire

4. The Creative Writer’s Workshop
Galway, Ireland

The Creative Writer's Workshop Writing Retreats

Founded in 1991 by Irene Graham, the Creative Writer’s Workshop offers writing retreats amongst some of Ireland’s most breathtaking scenery. For 2017, they are running retreats on both fiction and memoir writing. Although the Creative Writer’s Workshop draws on innovative left brain/right brain learning techniques to encourage creativity and imagination in their authors, we think the amazing views across the cliffs will be enough to inspire any writer to great things.

Prices

Prices start at €1295. See their website for more details.

5. Skyros
Atsitsa Bay, Greece

Skyros Bob Shelley painting

Painting by Bob Shelley

Skyros retreats have been described by The Sunday Times as “One of the World’s Best Holidays” and are particularly good for solo travellers as they have the motto, “Come on your own and leave with new friends”. They burst with possibilities on their 3 destinations (from which 2 are on the sun-drenched Greek island of Skyros and one on the Isle of Wight!). The island of Skyros is postcard-perfect with cute, white washed buildings and bright blue skies. Skyros alternative holidays are not just for writers, there are yoga courses, dance courses, singing courses, windsurfing courses, or you can just relax at the beach.

Atsitsa Bay

Atsitsa Bay, Greece

Prices

Prices start from £725

Their next writing courses on the Island of Spyros are:

  • Sat 15 – Sat 22 July 2017: Life, Dreams and Fiction with Steve Attridge  £725
  • Sat 22 July – Fri 4 August 2017: The stories of your life with Alison Habens £1,345
  • Sat 22 July – Fri 4 August 2017: Life into fiction (week 1) + Write your novel (week 2) with Mez Packer £1,345
  • Sat 5 – Fri 18 August: Finding your writer’s voice (week 1) + From experience to imagination (week 2) with Crysse Morrisson £1,385

6. The Grange by the Sea
The Isle of Wight, UK

BEST FOR: A QUICK WEEKEND GETAWAY

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If you’d rather find your peace a bit closer to home, we recommend The Grange by the Sea on the Isle of Wight. The Grange is a gorgeous Georgian country house with comfortable 4-star guest accommodation. It’s actually listed in the AA’s Best British B&B Guide. It’s part of Skyros Holidays (mentioned above), so they do things in the same way. You can go there just to relax, escape from daily life, or you can follow some of the courses they organise. The only difference is that they only offer weekend courses.

Prices

Their weekend writing courses are a modest £90. Their upcoming courses are:

  • Fri 5 – Sun 7 May 2017: The Stories of Your Life with Alison Habens
  • Fri 13 – Sun 15 October 2017: How to Build a Novel with DJ Connell
  • Fri 27 – Sun 29 October 2017: Adventures in Comedy Writing with Logan Murray

TOP TIPBook for a five night or longer stay at The Grange to enjoy a 10% discount per person.

 7. Retreats For You
Devon, UK

BEST FOR: NO DISTRACTIONS

Retreat for you3

Retreats For You has been included due to the fantastic feedback we’ve had from writers that have been there. If you like the idea of curling up by a log fire in a beautiful thatched house, in the North Devon countryside, this one is for you. It’s run by Debbie, who is a writer herself, and is happy to offer you constructive criticism on how to improve your writing. Did we mention it’s only 50 yards from the village pub? They want to provide a space where you don’t have to worry about anything. And they really mean it. Everything is taken care of for you, leaving you totally free to concentrate on your writing. All food is provided, laundry is done for you, they even have a selection of cosy fleeces, onesies and slankets (= blankets with sleeves) for you to get truly comfortable. You will never want to leave.

Prices

They charge £80 per night, full board, (minimum 2 nights). £75 per night for stays of 8 nights or longer.

TOP TIP: They offer gift vouchers, so make sure to let your friends and family know you want one!

8. Swanwick Writers’ Summer School
Derbyshire, UK

Founded in 1948, Swanwick is believed to be one of the oldest residential writers’ schools in the world. For one week in August, they offer an annual writing retreat that includes a wide range of courses, workshops and panels led by journalists, literary agents and bestselling authors. Located in the quiet Derbyshire village of Swanwick, the historic 19th century Hayes Conference Centre is surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, a lake, and 90 acres of parkland grounds, guaranteed to offer a peaceful and contemplative environment for even the most frazzled author.

Prices

Prices start at £465 for the whole week, or £90 for day visitors. See their website for more details.

9. Arvon
Yorkshire, Shropshire, and Devon
UK

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The Arvon Foundation has been offering peaceful sanctuary for writers since 1968. In its three beautiful country houses in Yorkshire, Shropshire and Devon, writers can spend their weeks’ stay learning from workshops and tutorials run by bestselling authors and editors. From the striking woodland surrounding Lumb Bank in Yorkshire, to the beautiful refuge of Totleigh Barton’s gardens and orchard in Devon. Arvon promises their attendees ‘special places where you can feel free to imagine, concentrate and write.’ With courses taught by writers such as Mark Haddon, Malorie Blackman and Simon Armitage, you won’t find better professional guidance on your writing.

Prices

Prices start at £550. See their website for more details.

10. Heron’s Reach, Dingle
Ireland

BEST FOR: WRITERS ON A BUDGET

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If you would rather not re-mortgage just to get away from everything, Heron’s Reach might be the perfect solution for you. The Dingle Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places in the world. What the pictures can’t convey are the sounds of nature and constantly changing skyscape. Part of the Irish Galtacht, Dingle is rich in stories and magic. The retreat is only 5 minutes walk from the sea and Birnham Lagoon.

This place is one of the many writing retreats that http://www.writersretreat.com/ have in store for you.

Prices

They have 5 different studios, which start from 100-150 Euros a week.

We hope you’ve found some inspiration from these fabulous writing retreats, and maybe decided to take a retreat to focus on your own writing. Let us know in the comments below what your favourite writing retreats are, or if you’re planning a trip to one this year!

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